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Who Is the Pennsylvania Freedom Caucus?

Right-wing extremists are trying to consolidate power in Harrisburg and your state representative may be one of them.
The Freedom Caucus has come to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Photo by Sean Kitchen.

In the weeks following the 2022 election, Congressman Scott Perry and a couple dozen extremists from the Pennsylvania House Republicans launched their version of the Pennsylvania House Freedom Caucus.  The newly formed caucus is part of the shadowy State Freedom Caucus Network and has connections to Jeffrey Yass and parts of Pennsylvania’s right-wing infrastructure that tried overturning the 2020 election. 

The Pennsylvania House Republicans are the eighth caucus to join the State Freedom Caucus Network, with State Representatives Dawn Keefer and David Rowe as the chair and vice-chair. The network is run by longtime Club for Growth operative Andy Roth and Former Freedom Caucus Executive Director Justin Ouimetter. Perry emceed the press conference, and Grid describes the project as an affiliate of the Conservative Partnership Institutie, which employs Mark Meadows and Cleta Mitchell. Mitchell was a Trump attorney who assisted the former president’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election and who more recently has been leading “Election Integrity” summits in Pennsylvania and a handful of other states.

At the 2023 Pennsylvania Leadership Conference, Roth touted the Freedom Caucus’ role in ousting House Speaker John Boehner after the group’s formation, and explained how he wanted to take the Freedom Caucus nationwide proclaiming that there are “50 swamps in 50 states.” In the conversation between Roth and Keefer, Keefer directed her ire at House Republican leadership and thanked the Freedom Caucus for providing the resources to help spread their far-right agenda. 

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Keefer, who has been active with different Moms for Liberty groups in Cumberland and York Counties since 2021 and during her panel, also explained how the Freedom Caucus is providing resources and trainings for candidates running for school boards and offices.  

Members of the Pennsylvania Freedom Caucus who signed letters seeking to overturn the 2020 election results include Representatives Keefer, Rowe, Paul Schemel, Barb Gleim, Perry Stambaugh, Aaron Bernstein, Stephanie Borowicz and Mike Jones. Keefer participated in a “Stop the Steal” rally on the Pennsylvania capitol steps the day before the January 6th insurrection and claimed that the election results were “unlawful” and “invalid.” Representative Dave Zimmerman, a member of the Freedom Caucus but one that didn’t sign onto the letter, admitted before the election that he was subpoenaed by the FBI and called it a “witch hunt.”

READ: Former US Senator Feingold Calls Rep. Fitzpatrick’s Resolution For A Constitutional Convention ‘Extremely Dangerous’

Other Freedom Caucus members include freshman Representatives Tom Jones, Joe D’Orsie, and Wendy Fink. Jones has been spotted attending several Prayer Caucus meetings led by Abby Abildness and posted a photo on his Facebook page with Don and Doug Lamb from LifeGate Church. The church came under scrutiny earlier this year when members provided security for Doug Mastriano at campaign events and their ties to militia groups were reported.  

Fink and D’Orsie were elected, defeating former House Appropriations Chair Stan Saylor and Keith Gilesspie during the primary. Fink and D’Orsie both had the financial backing of Pennsylvania’s richest billionaire Jeffrey Yass through the Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania. Yass donated $1.2 million to CAP before the 2022 primary and used that money to fund attacks against both incumbents.    

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Those in attendance at the November press conference was a who’s who of Pennsylvania’s right-wing infrastructure. Nathan Benefield and other staffers from the Commonwealth Foundation and Commonwealth Leaders fund were in attendance. As was Ashley Klingensmith, the executive director Americans for Prosperity in Pennsylvania.  

Others in attendance included Senator Cris Dush’s Chief of Staff Joseph Foust, Abby Abildness and various preachers and members from her Prayer Caucus. Abildness is described as an “Apostle” in the New Apostolic Reformation movement and played a part in sowing doubt around the 2020 election results through her “Jericho Marches.” Abildness was pictured speaking to Perry following the event.

   

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Sean Kitchen

Sean Kitchen is a researcher and writer who's been working in Harrisburg for the previous 8 years.

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